Anyone who knew Tommy Lee Millwood Sr. can't help but smile when reminiscing about his larger-than-life personality and his undying love for music.
His son Shane Millwood describes him as "the life of the party." His second wife Linda Millwood saw him as "great man who was very giving... there are so many fond memories."
Millwood passed away in his home on June 21 after years of battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He left behind a loving family and a legendary career as a local musician. He married three times and had six children, but relatives say that everyone was family to Tommy, who kept close relationships with everyone in and around his life.
Millwood, who was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004, was known for his rousing performances and engaging persona. His band, Tommy Millwood and Lil' Bit Country, were regular performers for local shows and holiday celebrations.
"I remember when we drove to Nashville to make it big" said Don Dimsdale, his best friend since high school and member of Lil' Bit Country. "When we got there, the musicians playing on the street played better than we did. So we just turned back around."
Tommy's gift was his music. He could play multiple instruments, but his instrument of choice was the Fender Stratocaster guitar. He was a box of knowledge and knew everything there was to know about the music industry.
He recorded several songs over the years; his most popular song, "Long-Legged, Mini-Skirted High School Teacher," is still on sale in parts of Europe. He played with musicians including Conway Twitty and opened for Mel McDaniel and Verne Gosdin.
"He was the go-to guy for shows around here," Shane said. "When I was growing up, he would play three to four nights a week. And he worked a full-time job."
Tommy never turned down opportunities to play at fundraising events and for 20 years coached recreation football and baseball.
Even after he retired from the post office with 30 years of service, he kept on playing music, though he slowed down because of his illness.
His last show was two years ago at the American Legion Christmas party. He was struggling with pneumonia caused by the disease he was battling, but continued on with the show, unwilling to disappoint his fans.
"After that, he couldn't go back to performing," said Sue Millwood, his second wife. "But every now and then, when the children came over, he would try to pick the guitar a little. We all loved watching him play ... I never (saw) anybody play the guitar like he did."
Tommy's musical influence on his children was tremendous. All five of his sons found passion in music much like their father. Shane plays guitar, is a singer/songwriter and will perform at the Fourth of July celebrations in Oxford and Porterdale.
"He inspired all of us," said Shane. "He taught all of us how to play. Just about everybody who played the guitar around here learned from Daddy."
"He was a great communicator and knew how to work it on stage," said Dimsdale. "He was a true friend and cannot be replaced."